COVID-19’s Effects On The Enviornment

April 22, 2020

The COVID-19 virus has touched every life on the face of this planet. Humans have seen their businesses halted, friends and family lost, and events cancelled due to the outbreak. Very few people on the planet have benefited from these outcomes, and it has been a troubling time for many.

However, there are lives on the planet that have benefited. With less travel comes less car and plane emissions. With less resource usage comes less deforestation and depletion. Yes, the ecosystems of Earth have reaped immense benefits from the COVID-19 outbreak.

Major cities such as New York, Chicago, Seattle and Atlanta have reported major declines in air pollution, right after China had reported record lows of nitrogen oxide levels in their air during their lockdown period.

Social media posts of animals returning to habitats have gone viral, and many people have reported emboldened creatures venturing into major cities where they usually would not risk going to before. Common animals like deer, raccoons, birds and even sheep in some European countries have expanded their habitats thanks to fewer vehicles being on the road and people outside.

A pride of lions from South Africa’s Kruger National Park was caught napping on an empty road that would otherwise be filled with tourists.

Lions resting on a usually busy roadway in a South African national park.

In Venice and other places, many have noted that the water appears to be clearer and sealife, specifically dolphins, has come in closer to the coasts due to less pollution and human activity in the waterways.

Another positive could be the new focus on the wildlife trade market after this outbreak. Due to the possible causes of the virus, many believe that there will be new laws put in place to restrict and ban illegal animal trading and wet markets. This will benefit many at-risk animal species across the globe and slow down actions such as overfishing.

But, while many have considered some of the environmental impacts to be a silver lining to this outbreak, there are plenty of negatives that have resulted for animal life and the environment as a whole.

For starters, many of the perceived environmental improvements have been debunked. In Venice, the canal water is not actually cleaner, the sediment is just settling at the bottom of the depths due to less activity. The majority of social media posts about swans, dolphins, and other sea life returning to habitats have been proven false by National Geographic despite the posts’ popularity.

In terms of pollution, the positive impact on the world’s air and water has been immense, but it is only temporary. Unfortunately, once life returns to normal, so will pollution levels. This is merely a temporary breath of fresh air for the planet.

Many people have also adored cute videos of animals being released from their cages to walk around empty zoos and interact with other animals. The Cincinnati zoo allowed river hogs to meet meerkats, the Maryland zoo took a duck to meet the penguins, etc, etc. 

However, just like many other businesses, zoos are suffering financially, and their supply chains are being disrupted. 

As a result, a zoo in Germany has reported that as a last resort, it may have to slaughter some of its inhabitants to feed to other animals. While this is a last, last resort, zoo owners have said that they would rather take this approach than letting their animals starve due to either not being able to afford feed or their suppliers not being able to deliver. More zoos may have to take drastic measures as time goes on.

Similarly, wildlife conservation groups and charities are struggling to continue to support endangered species in the wild. Having to cut staff and being unable to move to locations freely has really hurt organizations in places such as Ecuador and Indonesia. With less funding and decreasing visitor numbers, conservation centers are being forced to either close down or operate with a skeleton crew.

Overall, while some extreme environmental activists have painted the coronavirus as a positive for the environment (some even going as far as to say that COVID-19 is the cure and humans are the virus), the outbreak has hurt the environment just like it has human life.

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